A past employee spread rumors as she left employment that she made $5 more an hour than she really did. This has fueled further discussion among the employees left behind who are continuing to compare and discuss their pay. How do I handle that?
As an employer, we cannot be afraid to address behaviors that take away from a harmonious work environment, however, it is important to keep in mind that some conversation is “protected”. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) contains a provision, Section 7 (29 U.S.C. § 157), that gives all employees the right to “engage in concerted activities”, including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. This means that employees are able to have discussions about work hours, pay, and benefits – it is within their right – and it is protected.
What is not right and can be disciplined is the concept of spending work hours (unproductive time) having these discussions. Being a time waster is not appropriate and can be addressed from a disciplinary standpoint if necessary. In addition, companies can have policies regarding behaviors that cause discord (and threatens workplace harmony) and take action on those behaviors, not necessarily the topic of discussion – only the behavior as a violation of the code of conduct.
Finally, as an employer we should be comfortable with discussions of pay and benefits. Let employees know what the policies are around compensation, let them know how/if salary levels are established and how market equities are ensured (as an example). Employees who are free to approach management and have discussions about those types of topics, are less likely to engage in gossip because they know the facts. Comfort in how compensation and benefit decisions are made and discussing organization practice around such a topic removes the “smoke and mirrors” and clarifies issues in employees’ minds. Limiting the “excuse” for the rumor-mill…at least in the area of compensation and benefits…
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One of the most difficult aspects of human resources management is dealing with people. Are you getting inundated with complaints about managers or employees that take you away from more pressing matters? Are you looking for an on-going solution to combat these issues? Strategic HR, inc. has years of experience in employment relations. Visit our Employee Relations page to learn how we can help you resolve some of your toughest ER problems.